Viking Runes and Rune Stones


Viking Runes and Rune Stones

The alphabet they used was invented by their ancient Scandinavian ancestors. According to legend, Odin, chief of the Norse gods, speared himself to a tree in an  attempt to receive knowledge and learn the mysteries of the runes. He then passed this knowledge to his people.

The Viking alphabet is often called the futhork after the first six letters of the original alphabet of twenty-four letters. The alphabet was later reduced to sixteen runes.

Viking runes were carved with a knife or chisel into stone and wood. To make carving into these surfaces easier, the runes were made using only straight lines. Words were formed by separating groups of runes with a period.

Runes were put to practical uses by ordinary Vikings. They were used for everyday writing such as labeling household items and personal belongings. They were also used by merchants to keep records of items bought and sold. Viking warriors decorated their swords and spears with runic characters too.  Viking believed that warriors who knew how to read and write runes could blunt enemies' weapons, break chains, cure illnesses, guard against witches and be protected in battle and on threatening seas.

Runes have been found carved into the altar railings of European cathedrals and stone statues. In one way, it's lucky for us they did because some of what we know about them has come from these carvings.

The Vikings also used runes to inscribe memorial stones. Some of the inscriptions were tributes to fallen heros and loved ones. Others mocked dishonest Viking who had betrayed friends and family.

Rune stones were usually large surface boulders with at least one naturally flat surface. The stones were often decorated with black, red, blue and white paint extracted from berries, garden plants and clay-like earth.  These stones and the sagas recorded by Viking poets called skalds, have helped archaeologists reconstruct some of what we know about the Vikings.

Viking rune characters were also inscribed on thumb-sized stones. They were placed in bags and removed one by one by Viking fortunetellers and magicians to tell the future, heal the sick, banish evil, or bless people, places, and things.


There are many versions of the runic alphabets. Each has variations in names, shapes, esoteric meanings and magical uses. One should not mix futharks, or the intent or meaning becomes confused. The Elder Futhark, the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, and the Younger (or Scandinavian) Futhark are the most frequently seen versions of the runic alphabets in use today.

The runes are broken into three sections or groups of eight, called aett (aettir, plural).

First the rune name is given, then its phonetic value, its symbolic image, and finally the esoteric meaning used in divination. Rune users disagree on whether or not to place a different meaning on a rune that falls in an inverted or reversed position. Some runes look the same upside down and right side up. These cannot be "reversed". Nevertheless, any of the runes may appear as a "merkstave" (which literally means "dark stick" and implies a "dark" meaning), depending on how the runes are cast.

Fehu (F: Domestic cattle, wealth.)

Uruz: (U: Auroch, a wild ox.)

Thurisaz: (TH: Thorn or a Giant.)

 Ansuz: (A: The As, ancestral god, i.e. Odin.)

Raidho: (R: Wagon or chariot.)

Kenaz: (K: Beacon or torch.)

Gebo: (G: Gift.)

Wunjo: (W or V: Joy.)

Hagalaz: (H: Hail.)

Nauthiz: (N: Need)

Isa: (I: Ice.)

Jera: (J or Y: A year, a good harvest.)

Eihwaz: (EI: Yew tree.)

 Perthro: (P: Lot cup.)

Algiz: (Z or -R: Elk, protection.)

Sowilo: (S: The sun.)

Tiwaz: (T: Tyr, the sky god.)

Berkano: (B: Berchta, the birch-goddess.)

Ehwaz: (E: Horse, two horses.) Transportation. May represent a horse, car, plane, boat or other vehicle.)

 Mannaz: (M: Man, mankind. The Self; the individual or the human race.)

Laguz: (L: Water, or a leek. Flow, water, sea.)

Ingwaz: (NG: Ing, the earth god

Dagaz: (D: Day or dawn.)

Othala: (O: Ancestral property.)

You can write your name or other words in the runes of the Elder Futhark by using the javascript transliterator below.

Tips: Write phonetically, and skip doubled letters and silent letters.

Examples: "Chrissy" should be written "KRISY".
"Cynthia" should be written "SYNTHIA"
"Ralph" should be written "RALF".
"Thomas" should be written "TOMAS", but "Thad" would be written "THAD".
"Book" should be written "BOK".
"Write" and "Wright" should be written as "RIT".

CH, as in "Chuck", will appear as Kenaz Jera. KJ is the closest approximation in Scandinavian languages.
EI will appear as Eihwaz.
J and Y will appear as Jera.
NG will appear as Ingwaz.
TH will appear as Thurisaz.
V will appear as the runic W because V and W are interchangeable in Scandinavian languages.